Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus, two minerals essential to building bones. If you don’t supplement vitamin D, you may develop osteoporosis later in life.
As an athlete, you may wonder whether you should take vitamin D supplements. Fortunately, there is no evidence that taking vitamin D will cause muscle weakness or injury. However, you certainly want to take vitamin D if you live in areas where the air pollution level is low.
Although there is no scientific proof that any amount of vitamin D will prevent injuries, several recent studies suggest that taking vitamin D daily will improve bone health and decrease your chance of developing arthritis.
It is recommended that adults aged 51 and older take 2000 IU of vitamin D every day. For children between 2 and 8 years old, 500 IU of vitamin D is recommended.
For athletes and those living in areas with poor air quality, experts recommend 1000-2000 IU/day.
How Much Should I Take Daily?
There is no official recommendation regarding how much vitamin D you should take each day. Some experts say that if you spend most of your time indoors, you probably need a higher dose of vitamin D. To avoid toxicity, however, take no more than 4000 IU/day.
Some athletes claim that they can tolerate 5000-6000 IU per day without adverse effects. Others report feeling better after taking 10,000 IU per day for 3 days.
What Happens if I Don’t Supplement Myself?
Even though vitamin D is found naturally in food, you still need to supplement yourself if you don’t get adequate amounts of sunlight exposure. Experts estimate that 75% of Americans do not receive sufficient levels of vitamin D from food alone.
In fact, the United States Department of Health recommends that everyone take 400 IU of supplemental vitamin D per day.
While you can get vitamin D from foods such as salmon, cod liver oil, eggs, milk, cheese, mushrooms, and fortified cereals, these sources won’t provide enough vitamin D unless you eat a diet rich in fatty fish, egg yolks, and dairy products.
Many experts believe that vitamin D deficiency is widespread among athletes. One study showed that 80% of runners had inadequate levels of vitamin D. Another study reported that 92% of college basketball players lacked vitamin D.
Other studies have shown that 90% of baseball pitchers, 95% of football quarterbacks, and 97% of hockey players lack adequate levels of vitamin D. Only 17% of professional soccer players have adequate levels of vitamin D, compared to 85% of nonathlete men.
Studies show that athletes who take vitamin D supplements are healthier and stronger, have fewer injuries, and recover faster. Athletes who take vitamin D supplements tend to train longer hours and exercise more often than those who do not take vitamins.
Taking vitamin D supplements may help you perform better athletically and physically. Studies indicate that supplementation reduces the likelihood of stress fractures, improves athletic performance, and decreases the incidence of asthma.
However, another study suggested that vitamin D supplements may actually lead to overuse injuries. Researchers concluded that taking too much vitamin D caused sprains and strains in gymnasts. Other research has indicated that vitamin D supplementation may lead to increased rates of rhabdomyolysis in young athletes.
Is There Any Evidence That Taking Too Much Vitamins Can Hurt Me?
According to one study, taking more than 60,000 IU of vitamin D may result in kidney stones. This same study showed that taking more than 100,000 IU of vitamin C was associated with elevated uric acid levels.
Are There Side Effects Associated With Taking High Levels of Vitamin D Supplements?
Experts agree that it is safe to take up to 50,000 IU of vitamin A and 50000 IU of vitamin D every week. But taking more than this may give you diarrhea, stomach pain, constipation, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, confusion, and fatigue.
These symptoms usually disappear within 1-2 weeks once you stop taking vitamin D supplements.
Where Do You Get Vitamin D From?
Sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D. The U.S. government recommends that people use sunscreen to protect themselves against skin cancers. It is important to note that UVB rays (the type that produce vitamin D) are blocked out by SPF 30+ sunscreens.
People who live in northern latitudes must take steps to obtain vitamin D from their diets. Foods containing vitamin D include tuna, sardines, mackerel, oysters, salmon, beef liver, and butterfat.
What Are the Benefits of Taking Vitamin D Supplements? What Are the Risks?
Supplementing with vitamin D can help prevent certain medical conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, stroke, cancer, osteoporosis, and depression. It can also help increase bone density and strengthen muscles.
But vitamin D supplements shouldn’t replace good nutrition and regular exercise. In addition to getting plenty of sunshine, you should consume foods rich in calcium and protein. These nutrients help build strong bones and muscles.
Athletes and their parents should talk about the risks and benefits of vitamin D supplements before starting them.
More information about vitamin D can be found online at www.vitamindcouncil.org/dietary_supplementation_of_vitamin_D.html
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